Gallup’s most admired man and woman polls are an interesting bit of annual nonsense. I should qualify that statement. I think the data from any given year provides mostly a bit of entertainment in the genre of end-of-the-year lists. Taken as a whole, however, this data is quite interesting. Gallup has been taking this poll since 1948.
I find three things interesting: 1) The annual “winner” seems to reflect the most important news event(s) of the given year; 2) What seems like a high percentage of “winners” and top-ten finishers are American presidents, and 3) The “no opinion” category polls as well as the “winner.”
President Bush wins for the second straight year, although his numbers are down a bit from last year.
I think Americans want their president to be worthy of general admiration. This is an wonderful national trait. Our political system, however, makes this trait difficult to maintain with much consistency: one person embodies both the head of government and the head of state. Great Britain, for example, does not have this particular problem.
This conflation often creates a bit of cognitive dissonance for Americans because we want to revere the head of state, but we may loathe the head of government. This very split is one of the things that made Bill Clinton so troublesome. This very split creates the situation that makes some liberals appear to be unpatriotic to some conservatives.